Sparking Ideas

Contributed by Dayna Neumann

What happens when you gather a group of people from disparate disciplines to debate a common issue?

Maybe a few fireworks.  Definitely education.  Guaranteed progress.

Enter Idea Festival.  This transformational event brings together great minds from all areas of business, government, the arts, literature, etc. for three days of innovative thinking.  One of the many fabulous presentations was titled “Sales and the Brain”.  Hosted by Patrick Renvoise, the author of “Neuro Marketing: Understanding the “Buy Buttons” in Your Customer’s Brain”, this event captivated us on many levels.  One of the challenges Patrick posed to leadership in the audience was to ask  your employees to complete this statement, “Our company is the only company that….”  So we took Patrick’s advice and the results were fantastic.

Last week, our five member executive team was asked to complete the statement, “FetterGroup is the only company that….”  With each person  approaching the topic from their area of discipline – finance, marketing, sales, operations, IT – we created the perfect mash-up of ideas.

The process has set us on a path of consensus building, while maintaining our individual voices.  We have more work to do but the exercise sparked a level of participation and introspection we don’t always enjoy.

From Ted Hagler, EVP Operations, FetterGroup – October 2, 2011

“Dayna,

What a great meeting that you lead us through yesterday!

I realize that I am often too focused looking in and not enough looking outside of our four walls.  I appreciate how you help me and others to see more.  I also appreciate how you let me interject my thoughts and ideas and find ways to integrate them into working ideas.

I was taught that IDEAS are what separate us from the masses.

The next step is to take your idea and form a THEORY.

That theory must then be turned into an understood EXPLANATION.

Once understood a PLAN must be made.

Then a DECISION must be made upon that plan.

From that plan there must be ACTION, carried out by people.

That action from all those teams creates IMPLEMENTATION.

Implementation then creates RESULTS.

Results can be proven and MEASURABLE.

The above steps are what turn and idea / theory into a proven process.

None of this work will be easy, but all of it worthwhile.

I appreciate this visioning process and how it will shape us into a company that has an implicit, distinct, plan for the future.

Thanks again,

Ted Hagler, Jr.”

Try this with your teams and watch the sparks fly.  You will definitely ignite ideas along the way.

You Had Me At Hello: Creating Great First Impressions

Contributed by Dayna Neumann

How do you know you made a great first impression?

They remember your name.  They take your calls.  They buy from you.  They buy from you again.  They send a shout-out Tweet recommending you to their network.  The uncomfortable truth is, in business, we may not know the quality of our first impression in time to do anything meaningful about it.

So how do you guarantee the best possible first impression?  For me, it’s all about the experience.  No matter the channel – sales reps, customer service, websites, packaging, products, signage, business cards – you must be prepared to make the best possible first impression.

That Sounds Expensive

Managing good first impressions does not require a Lebron James PR budget.  Orchestrating consistent, impressive first impressions starts with awareness.  Be aware of your communication channels and all the ways potential clients interact with your company.  If you start with awareness you may reveal areas for improvement and missed opportunities.

Help Me Help You

Do you make it easy for customers to socialize?  Do you give them a simple way to tell you what they like, what they don’t like and to share all of these feelings with their network?  If you answered no, you are missing a major opportunity to capture new market share.  Again, this doesn’t have to be a major investment.  Slap a QR (quick response) code on a portion of your next label run and have it point to your Twitter page.  Ask your customers to give you instant feedback on why they chose your product.  Test an incentive like a discount coupon or a product give away and see if people need a little extra encouragement to engage the campaign.  Capture the metrics, read the posts, react accordingly, repeat the parts that worked, get lots of new customers, make buckets of money.  Creating ways for your existing customers to help you attract new customers does not have to break your marketing budget and you will have entered a brave new world of first impressions.

Channel Surfing

Let’s consider another scenario where your product is the channel to create a first impression.  For many companies, a web-based application like a storefront is the first interaction someone has with your company.  For us, we have cloud, or hosted products that our customers make available to their employees to help them do their job – like initiating marketing campaigns or managing label inventories.  In these situations it is your product that establishes the first impression with an entire user community.  Again, you must be aware of the customer experience and continue to ask yourself if the experience is the best it can possibly be.  Do you allow your customers to socialize about the experience and the product?  Are you listening and reacting?  Are your channels working hard for you and each other?

You Had Me At Hello

So who is killing the product-based first impression and who is nailing the internet first impression?  37 Signals and Prezi are two companies doing both incredibly well.  I won’t cloud your judgment with my opinions here.  So go out to their sites, have your own first impression and report back in the comments on what your first impressions are of these two companies and their products.  Are they giving a firm handshake or a limp fish?

It’s About Time

Contributed by Ted Hagler

It’s 5am and the alarm goes off.  Today is the big day!  Not the day we put our “large  sheet” digital press on the floor, no, today is the day we take one of our “large 40 inch security blankets” off the floor.  Today a crew is coming to Fetter to remove a litho press we bought over twenty years ago.

Why the change?  It’s about time.

In this new world of complexity, high quality and mass customization, this well-built, carefully engineered, lithographic press has become obsolete due to time; the time it takes to set up one job.

In this world, job quantities are reducing and job diversity is proliferating.  Fetter recognizes the need to change jobs quickly and often.    In the time it takes to set up a job on the old 40 inch litho press, we could have the job complete on the new digital press.  Because time is typically money in the press room, the time we save with digital translates into lower waste and increased yield.

Arrival time.

For Fetter this transition process started over two years ago with an exploratory investigation into the needs of our label customers, moved into the building of one of the most comprehensive cost-analyzing databases and culminated into the testing of four very different digital presses and three of the latest sheet-fed  lithographic presses.  It involved labor changes, space consideration, process change and customer cooperation.

Time for change.

From a business operations standpoint we were able to quickly adapt many of the same quality requirements, productivity goals and job specifications from our current system.  This was a plus considering the additional time and cost it could have taken to change numerous practices and measurements at the same time we were asking so many employees to learn a new technology.  Another benefit was our ability to support this digital press with all the same finishing equipment we already had – and that our customers were comfortable with this tactic.  The finishing connection is significant because some digital presses force you to have different finishing equipment and processes, when coupled with the change in printing, creates additional stress in the plant and with our customers.

Remember, it’s all about time!

We are in the beginning of our second month of experiencing the dynamic capabilities of our new NexPress and the positive impact it is having on our plant.  Time will tell, but all indications point to exceeding our time efficiency expectations while delivering the product our customers need to succeed.

How is digital print changing the delivery of your products?

The Demand for On Demand

Contributed by Terry Gill

Output agnostic. That’s where I’d like to start this conversation. It’s a concept we’ve been knocking around for several years as we’ve watched the incredible pace of change inside the marketing communications and business solutions marketplace.

As a company, we want to establish mindset where the output is whatever it needs to be. It can be determined by economics, risk factors, consumer preference or some other determinant, but we are to have zero bias. It may need to deliver from a very large piece of iron, the latest digital press or it may simply remain in its digital state as PDF.

Our role is to ensure the output choice isn’t influencing how we chose to manage the content. Think of it as the antithesis of the well-worn “Begin with the end in mind” approach. It’s beginning without worrying about what comes at the end. It’s really a freeing and powerful concept, but requires a different philosophy.

To really embrace and live out this concept you have to choose a different path. Its one where the value proposition isn’t defined by size, number or speed of our output devices; those are things that are easy to understand and exploit. They are linear and scalable. They plug in.

Marrying smartly designed and functional web facing content management tools with an output agnostic business model creates a new kind of value. And for those souls who live inside business climates that are heavily regulated, this new way can be more than just a means of surviving. Will this become a real competitive advantage or at least a fair fight?